Jeff Elbel is obsessed with music (just like you), which explains his affection for The Big Takeover. As far as he can recall, he has contributed to every issue since #43 with R.E.M. on the cover. His featured articles have included interviews with heroes Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil, “Saint Bob” Geldof of the Boomtown Rats, and Sharon Jones of the Dap-Kings. Jeff works for a NASA consultant group by day, and fills as many of the other waking moments as possible chasing his daughters and performing with groups including his rock and roll band Ping. Jeff also freelances for the Chicago Sun-Times, and is nearly always sleep-deprived.
This is a fun release for Record Store Day that mimics the cornerstone of countless mixtapes made by teenaged prog-rock nerds of decades past, self included. For the first time, “Cygnus X-1, Book I: The Voyage” and “Cygnus X-1, Book II: Hemispheres” are officially bundled together into one complete story.
Calling It’s Hard a covers album is a feint, even if it harkens back to the Bad Plus’ landmark early recordings and bracing interpretations of material by artists as disparate as Abba, Rodgers & Hart, and Nirvana. These songs find the band in full creative and cerebral flight.
Highlights from the final day of Lollapalooza’s 25th anniversary touched all extremes of the eclectic lineup. The mix included hip-hop, psychedelic folk, alternative rock, EDM and more. Read here for coverage of Sir the Baptist and Local Natives.
Saturday’s sunshine was a welcome transformation in Grant Park, and it made for a perfect music-watching. Most of the musicians also mentioned their gratitude for this particular form of climate change from the stage. Read here for reports on the Joy Formidable, Leon Bridges, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, and Dua Lipa.
Read here for Lollapalooza 2016 Day 2 coverage including Radiohead, M83, Foals, Frightened Rabbit, and more rain.
Lollapalooza’s 25th anniversary got off to a soggy start, but day one included many highlights including Yeasayer, The 1975, Kurt Vile & the Violators, and Lana Del Ray. Read the article for the rundown on Yeasayer’s set.
Chicago’s premiere punk-blues piano-and-drums outfit are back with a modern spin on Serge Gainsbourg’s 1963 single “Chez Les Yé-Yé.”
Many have crowned Riot Fest as Chicago’s best-curated music festival of the year. The opportunity to see back-to-back sets by Echo & the Bunnymen, funk maestro Bootsy Collins’ Rubber Band and country music legend Merle Haggard was too wonderfully eclectic to miss, crowned shortly afterward by a stage-shredding performance from Iggy Pop.
Paul McCartney closed the first day of Lollapalooza 2015 with nearly 130 minutes of beloved Beatles, Wings and solo material. He also sprung a few surprises.
Poi Dog Pondering recently wrapped a four-night stand at City Winery Chicago in support of new project Everybody’s Got a Star. Rock photographer Philamonjaro was on hand to document night three.
Following welcome releases by Jellyfish, Lone Justice, Camper Van Beethoven and Dream Syndicate, the music fans at Omnivore Records now fill a longstanding void by launching its series of reissues by Scott Miller’s late, great psych-pop band Game Theory. First up is an expanded edition of the band’s 1982 debut album.
The crown jewel of Legacy’s 2014 Record Store Day offerings is a 50th anniversary edition of “The Pink Panther – Music from the Film Score Composed and Conducted by Henry Mancini.” A better marriage of quirky-yet-stylish music and popular film is hard to imagine.
Paisley Underground favorites The Bangles, The Three O’Clock, Dream Syndicate and Rain Parade reunited in December for a show benefitting Education Through Music – Los Angeles. Chicago-based rock photographer Philamonjaro was at L.A.‘s Henry Fonda Theatre to document the evening in this photo essay.
Daniel Lanois will release “Papineau” on Valentine’s Day 2014. The new single captures a disagreement between a father and daughter over matters of the heart.
Omnivore has been good to fans of 90s alternative pop princes Jellyfish. While last year’s Stack-a-Tracks explored the band’s instinct for lush and psychedelic pop arrangements, Radio Jellyfish presents the essence of the band.
Dave Davies’ lofty position in the pantheon of popular music would be secure even without the existence of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or the Kinks’ extensive body of work. His upcoming tour will feature songs from new album “I Will Be Me” alongside Kinks favorites. Davies discusses family foundations, sibling rivalry, and inspiration drawn from good times and hard times.
Both of these potent slices of instrumental soul are available on Menahan Street Band’s full-length LP The Crossing, but there’s something so right about playing them as a well-matched pair on a 45 r.p.m. single.
Famous production clients aside, Daniel Lanois’ haunting musical textures have earned him a devoted following. The Canadian artist is currently focused upon his solo material and traveling to support it.
The Who performed its landmark concept album Quadrophenia on two nights in Chicago, IL. The set list may have been known in advance, but the veteran British rockers played with conviction and fire.
This two-disc set collects thirty-three Queen videos, featuring the British rockers’ best-loved songs. Having guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor on hand via commentary is worth the price of admission.
With an appealing blend of classic and alternative styles, Eclectric earns comparisons to crafty pop provocateurs like Tears for Fears, Eurythmics, and Level 42.
Seventeen studio albums into its career, this is clearly a band that is not bored or running a treadmill. Some of the usual comparisons tangentially apply, including Genesis, Radiohead, and Pink Floyd. With “Sounds,” Marillion both challenges and entertains.
Although Queen are constantly on the periphery, this film explores Freddie Mercury individually. His ambitions as a solo artist extended beyond “Mr. Bad Guy” or even rock and roll. This tribute connects most deeply at a personal level, rather than relying solely upon Mercury’s stadium-sized fame.
Former Dropsonic frontman Dan Dixon is taking his audience somewhere new with PLS PLS. He’s primed to pick up a different style of listener that favors genre-tweaking indie rock and tuneful experimentation over Dropsonic’s fearsome old-school rock chops.
The improved picture quality, fresh remaster and new surround sound mixes are worth hearing, even if you played the live album as much as I did eighteen years ago. The extras are icing on the cake. For the newly curious, Secret World Live provides a compelling overview from Peter Gabriel’s heyday.
If I have to choose sides in the Zombie apocalypse, I’m throwing in with these guys. This set captures an intimate show from the band’s astonishing 50th anniversary year at Metropolis Studios in London.
Wish You Were Here represents many things in the Pink Floyd canon. Ultimately, it emerges as the band’s most focused artistic statement, even while examining the separate themes of Roger Waters’ struggle against the machinery of the music industry and the still-open wound of the absence of band founder Syd Barrett.
The Seventy Sevens’ early records garnered comparisons ranging from Echo and the Bunnymen to The Rolling Stones. That may have hampered their marketable identity, but it made them a beloved one-band jukebox to fans. Sticks and Stones captures the band’s schizophrenia at its best.
Chronology provides a compelling and worthwhile overview of Talking Heads’ career. Rather than trying to manufacture a narrative, the band’s history is told primarily through a series of musical nuggets – allowing the band to speak for itself.
In a field perhaps over-filled with unauthorized biographies, Days of Our Lives is a refreshing and illuminating look into the arc of Queen’s stadium-sized career. Benefiting from full band involvement, the documentary makes for great drama. Above all, it’s filled with ambitious and extravagant rock and roll.
Those expecting the high-octane hard rock of Deep Purple from Roger Glover’s fifth solo album will be surprised, but not disappointed.
McGraw has described the process of making this album of covers as “the art of selling out,” and he makes admirable work of it. The song selection for Popular Music runs the gamut from guilty pleasure to hidden treasure, with surprising depth and personality.
This lighthearted collection of fresh material from the “living” King of Rock and Roll plays it mostly straight, but it’s not hard to tell that those involved have their tongues planted firmly in cheek.
Condron notches at least one should-be classic with “Blurred,” which pulls an equal measure of Dream Police-era Cheap Trick glam and classic Dave Edmunds melodic roots-rock.
Much of Wright’s material surveys wounds and casualties on the battlefield of love. Judging by this album, Wright has both loved and lost, and If We Never … is his way to mourn and celebrate all of it.
Of this concert film’s seventeen tracks, seven are drawn from 1978’s worthy Some Girls. Live in Texas is a time capsule from when the Stones’ flame last burned its brightest.
Like Squeeze’s recent Spot the Difference CD, Regeneration faithfully recreates Styx’s classic-rock singles with the band’s current touring lineup. This is both a treat for current fans and a means for fans to thank their heroes for soldiering on.
For conceptual depth, musical ambition and instrumental command, Quadrophenia remains unmatched among the Who’s canon. This set gives Who fans unprecedented insight into a justifiably beloved album.
This 45rpm single demonstrates afresh that the leftovers from soul providers Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings top many artists’ prime cuts. “He Said I Can” is a funky strut, while B-side “It Hurts to be Alone” reinterprets a Wailers classic recorded in 1963.
New Blood seems best suited as a gift to Peter Gabriel’s most committed fans – the devotees who are interested to see Gabriel unmake and recreate a favorite song like “Solsbury Hill,” and the ones who want to focus upon the power of his singular voice.
Greg Boerner is a natural troubadour with acoustic folk/blues chops and personality to spare. Of his four releases, his newest album Prophetstown comes closest to witnessing the artist in the wild.
This independent project shows a maturity of craft and is worth a listen for fans of female singer-songwriters ranging from Carole King to Alison Krauss. The talent on display here is worth sharing beyond its hometown roots.
Motown giants The Temptations celebrate an astonishing fifty years of pop music history with The Singles Collection. This set is a treasure trove for fans unfamiliar with the Temptations’ early work and the many quality singles that dotted the group’s trajectory from hit to hit.
The appeal of Hollywood’s second Queen box is hearing the band’s familiar singles lifted from the homogenized presentation of greatest-hits packages. Taken together, these albums present a formidable band with rare songwriting and performing depth, and one which was both willing to take risks and able to get away with them.
After departing the best lineup of Deep Purple, guitar hero Ritchie Blackmore launched the heavy-hitting and mystical Rainbow with vocalist Ronnie James Dio. The band’s most potent lineup would create only one studio album, but is featured on this live set. The centerpiece is the self-contained hard rock opera “Stargazer,” which must have blown stoned minds in 1976.
Guitarist and songwriter Joey Molland of ‘70s power-pop giants Badfinger was special guest at the Fest for Beatles Fans in Chicago. In addition to an interview with local Breakfast with the Beatles DJ Terri Hemmert, Molland joined the festival’s house band Liverpool for a concert. The set included Badfinger classics “Baby Blue,” “Day After Day,” and “No Matter What.”
The same words are often used, but they’ve never been more true. The title track to Marvin Gaye’s masterful protest album is as relevant today as it was when it was written. This set treats the landmark album with the respect it warrants.
This Midwest pop-rock staple, which introduced the power ballads “Keep On Lovin’ You” and “Take it on the Run,” is 30 years old.
These thoughts are presented as a companion to the recent review by Michael Toland.
Clouds Echo in Blue from Choir guitarist Derri Daugherty is an elegant collection of evocative, heavenly tones, tailor made for admirers of ambient instrumental projects such as those by ex-Cocteau Twins guitarist Robin Guthrie, Hammock and Riceboy Sleeps.